04 March 2012

The Antichrist!

The term or title antichrist, in Christian theology, refers to a leader who fulfills Biblical prophecies concerning an adversary of Christ, while resembling him in a deceptive manner. The antichrist will seemingly provide for the needs of the people but deny them ultimate salvation.

The term "antichrist" appears five times in 1 John and 2 John of the New Testament—once in plural form and four times in the singular. The Apostle Paul's Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, in particular the 2nd chapter, summarizes the nature, work, coming, and revelation of the "Man of Sin"—a passage often regarded as referring to same person as the antichrist of 1 and 2 John.

"Antichrist" is the English translation of the Koine Greek ἀντίχριστος (pronounced [anˈtikʰristos]). It is made up of two roots: αντί + Χριστός (anti + Christos). "Αντί" can mean not only "against" and "opposite of", but also "in place of", "Χριστός", translated "Christ", is Greek for the Hebrew "Messiah" meaning "anointed," and refers to Jesus of Nazareth within Christian, Islamic and Messianic Jewish theology.

The words antichrist and antichrists appear four times in the First and Second Epistle of Saint John. The word is not capitalized in most English translations of the Bible, including the original King James Version. 1 John chapter 2 refers to many antichrists present at the time while warning of one Antichrist that is coming. The "many antichrists" belong to the same spirit as that of the one Antichrist. John wrote that such antichrists "deny that Jesus is the Christ", "deny the Father and the Son", and would "not confess Jesus came in the flesh": a probable reference to the Docetic view that Jesus was not human, but only a spirit.

Some commentators, both ancient and modern, identify the Man of Sin in 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 as the Antichrist, even though they vary greatly in who they view the Antichrist to be. They argue that Paul uses the term "Man of Sin" (sometimes translated son of perdition or man of lawlessness) to describe what John identifies as the Antichrist.

Saint Paul writes that this Man of Sin will possess a number of characteristics. These include "sitting in the temple", opposing himself against anything that is worshiped, claiming divine authority, working all kinds of counterfeit miracles and signs, and doing all kinds of evil. Paul notes that "the mystery of lawlessness" (though not the Man of Sin himself) was working in secret already during his day and will continue to function until being destroyed on the Last Day. His identity is to be revealed after that which is restraining him (a possible reference to the katechon) is removed.

The term is also sometimes applied to prophecies regarding a "Little horn" power in Daniel 7. Daniel 9:27 mentions an "abomination that causes desolations" setting itself up in a "wing" or a "pinnacle" of the temple. Some scholars interpret this as referring to the Antichrist. Some commentators also view the verses prior to this as referring to the Antichrist. Jesus references the abomination from Daniel 9:27 in Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14 when he warns about the destruction of Jerusalem. Daniel 11:36-37 speaks of a self exalting king, considered by some to be the Antichrist.

Bernard McGinn described multiple traditions detailing the relationship between the Antichrist and Satan. In the dualist approach, Satan will become incarnate in the Antichrist, just as God became incarnate in Jesus. However, in orthodox Christian thought, this view was problematic because it was too similar to Christ's incarnation. Instead, the "indwelling" view became more accepted. It stipulates that the Antichrist is a human figure inhabited by Satan, since the latter’s power is not to be seen as equivalent to God’s.

Several American evangelical and fundamentalist theologians, including Cyrus Scofield, have identified the Antichrist as being in league with (or the same as) several figures in the Book of Revelation including the Dragon (or Serpent), the Beast, the False Prophet, and the Whore of Babylon. Others, for example, Rob Bell, reject the identification of the Antichrist with any one person or group. They believe a loving Christ would not view anyone as an enemy. Technically seen the antichrist is John's prophecy of an other religion that would spring up out of the old one, exactly and explicitly negating what Christ in the perception of Christians is.

As Saint John said: He who does not believe Christ came into the flesh as Son of God, is the antichrist.

Anti-messiahs are referred to in some Jewish writings in the period 500 BC–50 AD, and this is thought to be the precursor of the concept of the Antichrist in Christian writing. Bernard McGinn conjectures that the concept may have been generated by the frustration of Jews subject to often-capricious Seleucid or Roman rule, who found the nebulous Jewish idea of a Satan who is more of an opposing angel of God in the heavenly court insufficiently humanised and personalised to be a satisfactory incarnation of evil and threat. Armilus is an anti-messiah figure from late period Jewish eschatology. He is described as bald, partially maimed, and partially deaf.

Polycarp (ca. 69 – ca. 155) warned the Philippians that everyone that preached false doctrine was an antichrist.

Irenaeus (2nd century AD – c. 202) held that Rome, the fourth prophetic kingdom, would end in a tenfold partition. The ten divisions of the empire are the "ten horns" of Daniel 7 and the "ten horns" in Revelation 17. A "little horn", which is to supplant three of Rome's ten divisions, is also the still future "eighth" in Revelation.

Irenaeus identified the Antichrist with Paul's Man of Sin, Daniel's Little Horn, and John's Beast of Revelation 13. He sought to apply other expressions to Antichrist, such as "the abomination of desolation," mentioned by Christ (Matt. 24:15) and the "king of a most fierce countenance," in Gabriel's explanation of the Little Horn of Daniel 8.

Under the notion that the Antichrist, as a single individual, might be of Jewish origin, Irenaeus fancies that the mention of "Dan," in Jeremiah 8:16, and the omission of that name from those tribes listed in Revelation 7, might indicate Antichrist's tribe. He also speculated that it was "very probable" the Antichrist might be called Lateinos, which is Greek for "Latin Man".

Tertullian (ca.160 – ca.220 AD) held that the Roman Empire was the restraining force written about by Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:7-8. The fall of Rome and the disintegration of the ten provinces of the Roman Empire into ten kingdoms were to make way for the Antichrist.

'For that day shall not come, unless indeed there first come a falling away,' he [Paul] means indeed of this present empire, 'and that man of sin be revealed,' that is to say, Antichrist, 'the son of perdition, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God or religion; so that he sitteth in the temple of God, affirming that he is God. Remember ye not, that when I was with you, I used to tell you these things? And now ye know what detaineth, that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work; only he who now hinders must hinder, until he be taken out of the way.' What obstacles is there but the Roman state, the falling away of which, by being scattered into the ten kingdoms, shall introduce Antichrist upon (its own ruins)? And then shall be revealed the wicked one, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming: even him whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish.'

Hippolytus of Rome (c. 170-c. 236) held that the Antichrist would come from the tribe of Dan and would rebuild the Jewish temple in order to reign from it. He identified the Antichrist with the Beast out of the Earth from the book of Revelation.

By the beast, then, coming up out of the earth, he means the kingdom of Antichrist; and by the two horns he means him and the false prophet after him. And in speaking of "the horns being like a lamb," he means that he will make himself like the Son of God, and set himself forward as king. And the terms, "he spake like a dragon," mean that he is a deceiver, and not truthful.

Origen (185–254) refuted Celsus's view of the Antichrist. Origen utilized Scriptural citations from Daniel, Paul, and the Gospels. He argued:
Where is the absurdity, then, in holding that there exist among men, so to speak, two extremes-- the one of virtue, and the other of its opposite; so that the perfection of virtue dwells in the man who realizes the ideal given in Jesus, from whom there flowed to the human race so great a conversion, and healing, and amelioration, while the opposite extreme is in the man who embodies the notion of him that is named Antichrist?... one of these extremes, and the best of the two, should be styled the Son of God, on account of His pre-eminence; and the other, who is diametrically opposite, be termed the son of the wicked demon, and of Satan, and of the devil. And, in the next place, since evil is specially characterized by its diffusion, and attains its greatest height when it simulates the appearance of the good, for that reason are signs, and marvels, and lying miracles found to accompany evil, through the cooperation of its father the devil.
Athanasius (c. 293 – 373), writes that Arius of Alexandria is to be associated with the Antichrist, saying, "And ever since [the Council of Nicaea] has Arius's error been reckoned for a heresy more than ordinary, being known as Christ's foe, and harbinger of Antichrist."

John Chrysostom (c. 347–407) warned against speculations and old wives' tales about the Antichrist, saying, "Let us not therefore enquire into these things". He preached that by knowing Paul's description of the Antichrist in 2 Thessalonians Christians would avoid deception.

Jerome (c. 347-420) warned that those substituting false interpretations for the actual meaning of Scripture belonged to the "synagogue of the Antichrist". "He that is not of Christ is of Antichrist," he wrote to Pope Damasus I. He believed that "the mystery of iniquity" written about by Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:7 was already in action when "every one chatters about his views." To Jerome, the power restraining this mystery of iniquity was the Roman Empire, but as it fell this restraining force was removed. He warned a noble woman of Gaul:
"He that letteth is taken out of the way, and yet we do not realize that Antichrist is near. Yes, Antichrist is near whom the Lord Jesus Christ "shall consume with the spirit of his mouth." "Woe unto them," he cries, "that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days."... Savage tribes in countless numbers have overrun run all parts of Gaul. The whole country between the Alps and the Pyrenees, between the Rhine and the Ocean, has been laid waste by hordes of Quadi, Vandals, Sarmatians, Alans, Gepids, Herules, Saxons, Burgundians, Allemanni, and—alas! for the commonweal!-- even Pannonians.
In his Commentary on Daniel, Jerome noted, "Let us not follow the opinion of some commentators and suppose him to be either the Devil or some demon, but rather, one of the human race, in whom Satan will wholly take up his residence in bodily form." Rebuilding the Jewish Temple to reign from, Jerome thought the Antichrist sat in God’s Temple inasmuch as he made "himself out to be like God." He refuted Porphyry’s idea that the "little horn" mentioned in Daniel chapter 7 was Antiochus Epiphanes by noting that the "little horn" is defeated by an eternal, universal ruler, right before the final judgment. Instead, he advocated that the "little horn" was the Antichrist:
We should therefore concur with the traditional interpretation of all the commentators of the Christian Church, that at the end of the world, when the Roman Empire is to be destroyed, there shall be ten kings who will partition the Roman world amongst themselves. Then an insignificant eleventh king will arise, who will overcome three of the ten kings... after they have been slain, the seven other kings also will bow their necks to the victor.
Circa 380, an apocalyptic pseudo-prophecy falsely attributed to the Tiburtine Sibyl describes Constantine as victorious over Gog and Magog. Later on, it predicts:
When the Roman empire shall have ceased, then the Antichrist will be openly revealed and will sit in the House of the Lord in Jerusalem. While he is reigning, two very famous men, Elijah and Enoch, will go forth to announce the coming of the Lord. Antichrist will kill them and after three days they will be raised up by the Lord. Then there will be a great persecution, such as has not been before nor shall be thereafter. The Lord will shorten those days for the sake of the elect, and the Antichrist will be slain by the power of God through Michael the Archangel on the Mount of Olives.
Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430) wrote "it is uncertain in what temple [the Antichrist] shall sit, whether in that ruin of the temple which was built by Solomon, or in the Church."

Pope Gregory I wrote to Emperor Maurice A.D. 597, concerning the titles of bishops, "I say with confidence that whoever calls or desires to call himself ‘universal priest’ in self-exaltation of himself is a precursor of the Antichrist."

After the reforms of Patriarch Nikon to the Russian Orthodox Church of 1652, a large number of Old Believers held that czar Peter the Great was the Antichrist because of his treatment of the Orthodox Church, namely subordinating the church to the state, requiring clergymen to conform to the standards of all Russian civilians (shaved beards, being fluent in French), and requiring them to pay state taxes.

The view of Futurism, a product of the Counter-Reformation, was advanced beginning in the 16th century in response to the identification of the Papacy as Antichrist. Francisco Ribera, a Jesuit priest, developed this theory in In Sacrum Beati Ioannis Apostoli, & Evangelistiae Apocalypsin Commentarij, his 1585 treatise on the Apocalypse of John. St. Bellarmine codified this view, giving in full the Catholic theory set forth by the Greek and Latin Fathers, of a personal Antichrist to come just before the end of the world and to be accepted by the Jews and enthroned in the temple at Jerusalem — thus endeavoring to dispose of the exposition which saw Antichrist in the pope. Most premillennial dispensationalists now accept Bellarmine's interpretation in modified form.

Widespread Protestant identification of the Papacy as the Antichrist persisted in the USA until the early 1900s when the Scofield Reference Bible was published by Cyrus Scofield. This commentary promoted Futurism, causing a decline in the Protestant identification of the Papacy as Antichrist.

Some US Futurists hold that sometime prior to the expected return of Jesus, there will be a period of "great tribulation" during which the Antichrist, indwelt and controlled by Satan, will attempt to win supporters with false peace, supernatural signs. He will silence all that defy him by refusing to "receive his mark" on their right hands or forehead. This "mark" will be required to legally partake in the end-time economic system. Some Futurists believe that the Antichrist will be assassinated half way through the Tribulation, being revived and indwelt by Satan. The Antichrist will continue on for three and a half years following this "deadly wound".

Bernard McGinn noted that complete denial of the Antichrist was rare until the Enlightenment. Following frequent use of "Antichrist" laden rhetoric during religious controversies in the 17th century, the use of the concept declined in the 18th century. Subsequent eighteenth-century efforts to cleanse Christianity of "legendary" or "folk" accretions effectively removed the Antichrist from discussion in the new modernistic mainstream Western churches.

Masih Ad-Dajjal (Arabic: الدّجّال‎, literally "The Deceiving Messiah"), is an evil figure in Islamic eschatology. He is to appear pretending to be God at a time in the future, before Yawm al-Qiyamah (The Day of Resurrection, Judgment Day). He will travel around the globe entering every city except Mecca and Medina obliging people to believe in him as a God. Then Isa (Jesus) will descend from the sky to the White lighthouse in eastern Damascus, Syria, placing his hands on the backs of two angels at the time of Fajr. This will happen at the time of the Dajjal and Isa will be the one to eventually defeat the Dajjal, killing him with his spear.

The Ahmadiyya teachings interpret the prophecies regarding the appearance of the Dajjal (Anti-Christ) and Gog and Magog in Islamic eschatology as foretelling the emergence of two branches or aspects of the same turmoil and trial that was to be faced by Islam in the latter days and that both emerged from Christianity or Christian nations. Its Dajjal aspect relates to deception and perversion of religious belief while its aspect to do with disturbance in the realm of politics and the shattering of world peace has been called Gog and Magog. Thus Ahmadis consider the widespread Christian missionary activity that was 'aggressively' active in the 18th and 19th centuries as being part of the prophesied Dajjal (Antichrist) and Gog and Magog emerging in modern times. The emergence of the Soviet Union and the USA as superpowers and the conflict between the two nations (i.e., the rivalry between communism and capitalism) are seen as having occurred in accordance with certain prophecies regarding Gog and Magog. Thus, Ahmadis believe that prophecies and sayings about the Antichrist are not to be interpreted literally. They have a deeper meanings. Masih ad-Dajjal is then a name to given to latter day Christianity and the west.

In the Alice A. Bailey material, Theosophist Alice A. Bailey asserts that World War II was a cosmic conflict between good and evil. The Masters of the Wisdom, representing the Forces of Light, were on the side of the Allies; the Dark Forces were on the side of the Axis. According to Bailey, Adolf Hitler was possessed by the Dark Forces. With the defeat of the axis by the allies in 1945, the stage was set for the appearance of Maitreya to inaugurate the New Age. Alice A. Bailey's follower Benjamin Creme claims to be the one called to prepare the way for this to happen, and that it is possible that it could happen because Adolf Hitler was the Anti-Christ and he was defeated in World War II.

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